The Girolamo Russo label was born as a way for former-pianist-turned-winemaker Giuseppe Russo to honour his father (the eponymous Girolamo) and the winemaking traditions of his family who have eked a living from the volcanic slopes of Mt Etna for generations. The family farm is a modest 15 hectares in Passopisciaro (home to the winery of the same name as well as Frank Cornellisen and Pietradolce) on the northern side of the mountain, though production nowadays encompasses a wider spread of vineyards.
Giuseppe is a deep and insightful grower and producer who works passionately and poetically with his sites like a true maestro. On the ancient vineyards that he takes care of (primarily grown to alberello or bush vines) Nerello Mascalese wears the indisputable crown: I think if you take some of the best qualities of Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Grenache you would get a vine like Nerello Mascalese. The wines are matured in hefty old wooden vessels and given enough time to resolve and meld before their release.
The sheer versatility and expressiveness of Sicily's star variety is best exemplified by the three site-specific or cru wines that Russo produces annually. The supple and open Feudo, the dense and self-assured San Lorenzo, which is probably the pick in terms of aging potential, and the Calderara Sottano, a miniscule hectare that yields wines of true complexity and piquancy, is proof that Sicily in general and Etna in particular can be every bit the equal of the likes of Piedmont or Barolo.